How do websites work?

To know how your website fits in with your overall marketing strategy, first you need to have a basic appreciation for what it does, and how it works. Although it might seem simple to many, ignorance and misunderstanding cause lots of business owners run into problems with their online presence. In the latest in our ‘Beginner’s Guide to the Web’ series we explore the fundamentals of web design and development, and share some basic principles for success.

What is a server?

All websites are ‘hosted’ on something known as a server. In specific terms servers are computers or computer networks, designed to enable other programs (and websites) to function. Each program or device connected is known as a ‘client’ – and there can be many of these hosted on one single server. Hosting companies (such as 4UH, BlueHost and 123.reg) own massive warehouses filled with server computers. Amazon, Apple and Google also own similar establishments stretching for miles in the desert – all with sophisticated cooling and security systems. Server location is important – for example, reputable companies house their servers in the USA or UK. Lesser-known providers may deliberately situate their servers in Russia or China – which poses a security risk to your information and website data.

What is hosting?

‘Hosting’ simply refers to the rental of server space by your website. So the server and the company that owns it are hosting your website data, for a small fee each year. Every time you make a change or alteration to your website’s appearance or functionality, the changes are updated and stored on your host’s server. You can choose to host your website yourself, but this isn’t a popular option. The servers owned by hosting companies are manned 24/7 and have sophisticated back up systems to kick in in the event of a power outage or security threat – systems you couldn’t replicate in-house without significant expense.

What is a domain name?

A domain name is the ‘tag’ attached to your website – this is how people locate your website on the internet. So our domain name is Domain names must be claimed and purchased – just like hosting, they are ‘rented’ for a fee each year. The cost depends on the estimated popularity of the domain.

Are design and development the same thing?

Put simply, no. However, the two do work cohesively to ensure that your website looks great and feels good to use for your visitors. The two must compliment each other and work in harmony in order to guarantee success for your website. For example, design must be fluid, easy on the eye, persuasive. And the site itself must be quick to load, easily navigable, accessible. One without the other is much less effective. For example, your website looks incredible – but the link to your vital ‘About’ page is broken. Or your site is so poorly designed that users don’t stick around for the opportunity to experience its parallax format and easy to use interface. Great design without good functionality results in failure – and vice versa.

How do I ensure my website starts to appear in relevant searches?

In our next instalment we will take a look at the necessary components of a successful website. This includes content such as copy and images and developmental aspects such links, tags and responsive design. Stay tuned to find out how these elements come together to ensure that your website ranks for relevant search terms, securing you fresh business and helping you take the first step to online success.

For further information on bespoke website development and design why not head over to our case studies page or services pages to learn more.

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